Sudan gives Dutch minister the cold shoulder

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Defence minister denied entry in the country with no reason given.

8 April 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - After months of preparation, and just one day ahead of departure, Minister of defence Eimert Van Middelkoop has been refused a visa to visit Dutch soldiers in Sudan.

No reason was given, but government officials believe Khartoum may have taken this position because it is angry about the anti-Qur'an film by MP Geert Wilders.

Denmark was also given the cold shoulder shortly after the republication of the Mohammed cartoons at the beginning of the year. Then President Omar al-Bashir said no Dane would set foot in Sudan again.

Van Middelkoop was planning to visit 30 Dutch troops deployed as part of the 10-thousand strong UN force in southern Sudan. UNMIS is monitoring a peace agreement between the predominantly Christian rebels in the South and the Khartoum government in the mainly Islamic north of the country.

In January 2005, the peace agreement brought an end to Africa's longest civil war. On Friday, The Netherlands decided to extend its peace mission in Sudan.

This is the first time a government minister has been refused entry into Sudan. As well as visiting troops, the Christian Union minister was due to speak to officials in Khartoum and then travel on to Ethiopia and Burundi.

Now the whole trip has been cancelled. A spokesperson said Van Middelkoop will "just go to Sudan another time".

In the Lower House, the conservative VVD party has called for development aid to Sudan to be suspended because of the matter.

Sudan receives EUR 140 million euros in aid every year from The Netherlands. The money is not given directly to Khartoum, but was put in a fund administered by the UN and World Bank.

Denmark recently stopped its debt relief programme in response to government-supported demonstrations and a trade embargo.
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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